#Lejog Training – Done!

The weather didn’t want to make its mind up this morning as I set off on my final training ride prior to the start next week.  There were 16 riders out which I guess counts as a peloton?  A 40 mile loop with relatively little climbing was the order of the day.

790ft of climbing

I was running my bike on my new Shimano RS-80’s and Scwalbe Durano Plus tyres.  It’s hard to tell whether they are having an effect as I’m told it’s most noticeable going up steep hills.  So I guess I should find out next week!  What I would say is that the tyres absorb some of the road chatter better than my Bontrager Hard Cases  – or Boneshaker Hard Cases as they shall now be known.

Cafe stop at the Lavender cafe came at about the 30 mile point.

North Cheshire Clarion in town...

Lavender Cafe

Raspberry cake!

Mark and Phil - NCC's resident bloggers...

You can read Mark’s blog here and Phil’s blog here – both well worth a read!

A relatively unremarkable ride back from the cafe (apart from one of the guys getting a puncture a mile away from the end after a particularly nasty pothole!).

And that’s it.  20 weeks of training completed.  I’ll post later or tomorrow with a summary of my training but for now the stats from today’s ride – 43 miles, 2 hrs 36m @ 16.5mph average.  Total energy – 1557kcals.

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Penultimate Training Ride – Saturday Club Run

A very gentle club run today in very sunny weather with the North Cheshire Clarion – including 4 new guest riders.

355ft of climbing

I didn’t ride to the ride – as I am tapering my effort down ready for the big start next week.  There was virtually no climbing and we averaged a very sedate pace at 15mph.  This was ideal for tapering as evidenced by my heart rates zones

Average heart-rate 106bpm

Overall we did 25 miles in 1hr 41m @ 15mph using 875 kcals

Last day of hill training for #Lejog

7-30am this morning and Pete, Andy and I were getting ready to set off on my Cornwall Simulator route.  The route goes north through Accrington into the Ribble Valley and Forest of Bowland, through Slaidburn, Longridge and Ribchester, then back via Blackburn and Bury.

The reason I call it a Cornwall simulator is that although it is 30 miles shy of our day 1 Lejog, it packs in a similar amount of climbing.  Here’s the two elevation profiles side-by-side for comparison

Slaidburn loop - 5098ft of climbing

Day 1 Cornwall - 5600ft of climbing

As you can see both routes are pretty much roller-coaster rides.  In fact, todays route is probably the harder of the two, with gradients that we will rarely, if at all, see on the Lejog.  Here’s the gradient profile side-by-side

Slaidburn

Day 1 - Cornwall

Today’s ride had 7 climbs with a gradient > 10%, 3 of which were > 12.5% and 1 of which was > 15%.  Cornwall will see only 3 climbs > 10% with the worst being 12.5%.  Whilst that isn’t the whole story obviously, the point is that doing today’s ride is a good indicator of how it will feel on day 1.

Pete is recovering from a chest infection and so had peeled off prior to the big hills so it left Andy and I to tackle them.  It’s fair to say he was having a harder time and then we worked out that whilst I was running on a 50-34 compact with my new 12-27 cassette, he has a 53-39 with a 12-25.  What does that mean? Well, in simple terms and assuming we have the same crank lengths (we both run 700x23c wheels)

  • each turn of my crank would turn the rear wheel 34/27 times = 1.26
  • each turn of Andy’s crank would turn the rear wheel 39/25 times = 1.56
  • which means I had 19% lower gearing than Andy
  • he has to work much harder than I do going up very steep hills

We stopped at 2 cafe’s.  The Riverbank Tea Room in Slaidburn, where I had a very nice tea cake

And then in Ribchester at the Carmen Rose Tea Room, where I had coffee & walnut cake and Andy got stuck into chocolate fudge cake.

The day was pretty hot – ideal weather for cycling with minimal breeze.  On the downhill stretch to home Andy got a puncture in his rear tyre – a huge bent nail sticking out of it.  His own fault because at the start he was singing the praises of his Armadillo tyres which “had never had a puncture.”  To be fair the nail would have gone through a car tyre so I don’t think any bike tyre would have helped – but shows the importance of not tempting fate!

Overall we did 78 miles in 5hrs and 39 mins which is an average of 13.9mph.  Total calories used 4181.

Summertrees – Closed on a Friday!

Built a route today around one of my favourite tea rooms in Cheshire – Summertrees.  When I got there it was closed.  Still, lovely day for a ride.  Started off dark and cloudy, then the sun came out.  Pretty breezy so whilst it was nice in the sun, it’s was a bit chilly in the shade or when it went behind a rogue cloud!

Today’s route was meant to be flatter but still had the odd lump or two

2140ft of climbing

A nice ride – the last 9 miles on the East Lancs Road was done at an average of over 19mph.

79 miles in 4hrs 57m average 16mph.  3813kcals used.

Elvis and the Reindeer

Another Scorchio day, another training ride with the North Cheshire Clarion!  Sunday rides are slightly longer than Saturday – usually of the order of 40 miles, or 70 on the first Sunday of the month.  And they include a cafe stop!  I decided to ride to and from the start point, which is a good 25 miles each way from home.  So by the end I’d clocked up 95 miles, which I was very pleased with on top of the 70 yesterday.  No real aches and pains other than a stiff neck and a sore right foot – which is because of my natural tendency to put weight/force down on the outside of my foot.

Anyway, up at 6-30am and out by 7am the roads were clear and the temperature was already warm.  I rode from my home down through Warrington to the start at Stretton.  12 of us out today set off on a loop through Frodsham, Kelsall, round Quarry Bank, past Delamere and back up via Antrobus

The route had a few more hills on it this time.  And we indulged in a new game – race to the top of the hills!  This is great training – think interval training but on a bike.  Good fun if very exhausting, especially in the extremely pleasant and hot sun.

The cafe stop took us to a truck stop on the A54.  Which is where Elvis and the Reindeer comes in.

Guess who their favourite singer is?

Cake watchers will be keen to hear I had a ginger cake AND a small piece of fruit cake

Riding back afterwards was a bit harder due to the traffic being heavier.  After yesterday’s abuse on the East Lancs road I decided to use the cycle path as I was so politely advised to!  What a joke!  The cycle path has more kerbs and potholes than any road I’ve been on, with parts of it just gravel and other parts broken up by tree roots pushing the tarmac up.  Won’t be doing that again.

Overall, a very pleasing training weekend.  165 miles completed, some good hills and warm weather training combined.

Scorchio!

Phew – it’s hot out there!  70 miles in absolutely fantastic summer weather.  Had to put the factor 30 on before I went out and there was next to no breeze.  In fact the only problem with this weather is that it brings out all the c*cks in their cars.  Really people – is there any need for the kind of behaviour we saw today?  Ridiculously close overtakes, abuse shouted at me by a couple of stupid cows on the East Lancs and an old duffer jumping a red light.  F*ckwits.  If you are a non-cyclist reading this please bear in mind the following two points

  • Treat overtaking bikes like you would overtaking any vehicle – only when it is safe to do so.  Hint – roaring up a narrow country lane into the oncoming traffic and then swerving back into a group of bikes narrowly missing them and the oncoming cars does not constitute safe
  • If you do overtake a bike leave at least 2 feet clearance between your car (including wing mirror) and the rider.  Yes, that’s right.  2 feet.  Not 2 inches.

Anyway, rant over.  I rode the 20 miles or so to the Swan and met up with 6 other riders from North Cheshire Clarion for what turned out to be another 30 miles round St Helens – through Ashton-in-Makerfield, Rainford and back through Burtonwood and Winwick.  Then I set off for home down the East Lancs in the very, very hot midday sun!  I’d taken two 750ml bottles with me and I refilled one at Giles house on the way back but it wasn’t enough and by the time I got home I was out.  Overall the 70 miles were done at a cracking pace of 16.7mph with 1499ft of climbing and 3361 kcals used.

Llangollen – you seriously expect us to ride up that?

The Llangollen Panorama Audax is an 84 mile ride that starts in Cheshire near Tarporley and then drops down to Wales looping round Llangollen and back up to Cheshire.  Myself, Andy and Anthony from North Cheshire Clarion tackled this Audax on a bright, but quite cold, Saturday morning.

The first section of the ride, a good 20 miles, took us through the flat plains of Cheshire and into Wales, before starting a slow ascent.  The next section, lasting another 20 or so miles incorporated much of the climbing on the ride.  It started with a couple of short sharp peaks before we took a break at the first cafe stop not far from Garth.  A pot of coffee and a scone later and we were warned by the other riders that the hills we’d been over so far were simply tasters for the big one to come after Llangollen!

The road carved out of the side of a mountain is known as the Llangollen Panorama and offers rugged scenery and great views across the Vale of Llangollen

Llangollen Panorama road

View across Vale of Llangollen

Andy and I - Llangollen Panorama

Dodging the landslide rocks and sheep on the road we turned off the road and headed through Llangollen – a small touristy-type town – and out the other side.  Here we headed up the “big” hill.  For those who know Mow Cop then this is similar, except it is not as steep as the ramp but goes on for longer!  The climb takes you from 300ft to 1185ft in a little over 2 miles.  Dropping very quickly onto the granny ring the hill gets very steep very quickly, but goes on and on.  As my heart rate got higher and higher I started to weave to keep it down.  On one of the turns my front wheel went onto the gravel near the edge of the road and simply went from under me, sending me into the concrete before I could react in any way and unclip my feet.  It was even too quick to get my hands down so I hit knee and elbow first.  After dusting myself down I set off again – quite a feat given the steepness of the road.  As I clipped my second foot in I pushed off hard.  My weight was all at the back of the saddle and I was pulling against the pedal stroke on the handlebars.  Which inevitably brought my front wheel up off the ground, and at that slow momentum there was only one outcome.  Again I couldn’t unclip but this time I got my hand down, which was a big mistake.  Two fingers immediately swelled up around the joint, with the one in between having a large slice-like gash.  Fallen off twice in about two minutes!  More than I’d done in years before.  A bit shaken, I walked the next 100 yards or so trying to stop the bleeding.  The rest of the climb, once back on, was less eventful but very, very hard.  The downhill into Chirk, and the second cafe stop (cherry bakewell!), was very fast – and I realised that I was struggling to change gear and pull the brakes with my sore fingers.

Stupidly steep hill!

A long section of flat allowed us to get our average speed back up, hammering along through sunshine countryside before hitting another couple of small lumps towards the end of the ride at 68 miles and then a final 5 mile climb to the end.

Another well-organised Audax with a great atmosphere and great route.  A bit fed up I’m nursing very sore fingers now but I suppose you live and learn.  In total it was 84 miles, 14.1mph average, with 3428ft of climbing and 5279kcals used.

42 miles with North Cheshire Clarion

A beautiful sunny day in Cheshire as 14 (yes 14!) riders set off from Appleton Thorn on a large loop round Cheshire

The pace was pretty brisk with the first 12 miles or so being covered at an average speed greater than 17mph.  The early morning chill soon warmed up and we made it to the cafe stop with a short sprint in order to be at the front of the queue!  Cake watchers will be keen to learn that I enjoyed a very nice scone.  Incidentally that’s pronounced like it rhymes with “stone” – that’s what the “e” is for!

The pace eased off a bit as we completed the circle – weighed down by cake and the increasing temperature no doubt!  Overall we did 42.6 miles at an average of 15.9mph on a very flat 1025ft.  The 1971kcals more than made up for the scone!  Finally, so far my knee seems to be behaving itself, which is good news.  Fingers and toes crossed it stays that way.

A trip to the seaside. Well, to Southport anyway

You know what it’s like.  Bank Holiday Monday and up at 6.30am to go to the seaside.  The sun shining in bright, blue, clear skies.  Except it was absolutely freezing!  I’m a slow-starter anyway, perhaps taking 45 minutes to warm up and get into a decent rhythm (oh please – stop sniggering at the back) but I was 20 miles in today before I started to feel okay.  I was looking for a decent ride but not too hilly, and with the weather forecast predicting strong northerly winds I opted to go to Southport rather than south to Cheshire.

I did make a mistake in the route because it ended up including a couple of nasty climbs of the 7% and 1.5 miles kind.

How did I miss those hills?

Those familiar with Southport will know that going there is no guarantee of seeing the sea as the tide seems to retreat miles from shore.  The skies were clear and visibility was excellent, so even Blackpool Tower was visible some 10 miles to the North.  The wind was pretty strong, and what had been a slight headwind as I headed north-west to the start of Marine Drive became a welcome tailwind as I turned South.  As I rode down the Esplanade I realised that the old wooden roller coaster had been demolished.  I stopped for a bite to eat at the end of Lord Street – which looks a bit downmarket these days.  Another sign of the times maybe?  Keen followers of the cakes I eat on my rides will be disappointed that I had to make do with an energy bar and a gel.

I retraced virtually the same route back resulting in a ride of nearly 77 miles at an average speed of 14.8mph.  My flat course contained 2567ft of climbing (oops) which took 4130kcals.

32 mile training ride with Pete and Andy

After a mix-up about times I went for a training ride with two of the guys who will be doing the LEJOG – Pete and Andy.  Pete had been asking about doing a ride with hills, so I offered to take him round the 32 mile circuit I use looping out of Bury and through Haslingden and the Grane Road towards Blackburn.

This includes a decent climb up the Grane Road and a couple of smaller ones

Considering Pete had just come back from a 2 week all-inclusive holiday he did pretty well.  Total mileage 32 miles at 14.4mph and 1854ft of climbing.  Total calories 1712kcal.